US business executives worry about potential risks from the widening use of generative artificial intelligence programs such as ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot – but more than a quarter of them say that hasn’t stopped their organisations from experimenting with the game-changing technology in many core business functions.

This is among the findings from an AICPA & CIMA survey, which found that 71% of business executives were at least moderately concerned about potential privacy, ethical or accuracy risks associated with the use of Generative AI tools, with 42% expressing significant concern.

Views on Generative AI were solicited as part of the first-quarter AICPA & CIMA Economic Survey, which polls CEOs, chief financial officers, controllers and other certified public accountants in US companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

The level of concern about Generative AI risks is largely in line with responses from the survey last quarter, when identical questions were posed. This quarter, only 6% of respondents expressed “no concern at all” about the tools.

About 26% of survey takers said their organisations are experimenting with the technology in key operations, while 6% said they have already implemented Gen AI tools in one or more business applications. Half of those polled, however, said they haven’t begun to consider use of the tools yet.

Leading categories for test runs include sales and marketing, IT and risk management, core business operations, and finance and strategy.

Source: AICPA & CIMA Economic Outlook Survey

Survey takers weren’t asked about potential regulation in this area but were queried about the need for AI data to be “subject to some form of independent assessment, or review and assurance.”  Fifty-four percent said they viewed this kind of review as “significantly important”  to mitigate risks, while only 2% said they viewed it as “not at all important”.

“Our Future of Finance Leadership Advisory Group lists Gen AI second behind digital transformation in its ranking of top trends and issues facing CFOs,” says Tom Hood, AICPA & CIMA’s executive vice-president for business engagement and growth. “Managing risk and optimising the efficiency of these tools will be core competencies going forward.

“We recommend that finance teams start small and ramp up strategically based on their early insights into the technology, with a strong focus on data security and intellectual property protections throughout the process.”